Baseball Claims Nail Biter At No. 5 Rice In Extras

UABSPORTS.COM C Harry Clark tied a career-high with three hits and had two RBI
UABSPORTS.COM
C Harry Clark tied a career-high with three hits and had two RBI
UABSPORTS.COM

May 13, 2012

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HOUSTON ---- The UAB baseball team showed great resiliency in a 6-5 victory over No. 5 Rice in 12 innings in a back-and-forth battle at Reckling Park on Sunday afternoon.

"I thought the thing that we did best was that we competed," head coach Brian Shoop said.  "I'm happy we could sneak out of here with a win."

UAB (28-25, 8-13 C-USA) trailed 4-3 entering the top of the ninth, facing Rice (36-14, 15-6 C-USA) closer J.T. Chargois.  Shortstop Tanner Bryant decided to not let the Blazers go quietly against the flame thrower, starting off the inning with a double to left to put the wheels in motion. 

Bryant moved up 90-feet on a sacrifice bunt from Keith DePew, which was thrown away allowing the Trussville, Ala., native to reach and put runners on the corners with no outs.  Leadoff hitter Chase Davis reached on a fielder's choice that sent Bryant home to tie the ball game.

In the bottom half the ninth, Rice put two runners on against reliever Dillon Napoleon (5-3), but the right-hander induced a fly out to left to send the game to extras.

"We went into the ninth facing a guy (Chargois) throwing 96 (mph) and we pieced together a run, to extend the game," Shoop said.  "We were able to play long enough to get him out of the game.  At that point I thought the odds swung back in our favor, because we have one of the gutiest pitchers in Napoleon."

Neither team touched home in the 10th, setting up an action-packed full 11th frame. With one out in the stanza, Ryan Prizing rocketed a single to center to bring home Davis from second, who made an impressive wrap-around slide to take a 5-4 lead.

However, the game was far from over as Rice's hot-hitting Ford Stainback ripped a RBI double to left to even the score in the last of the 11th.  The home team eventually loaded the bases with two outs against Napoleon.  The Winnetka, Ill., product faced Ryan Lewis, who worked the count full.  After Lewis fouled off consecutive pitches, Napoleon forced a ground out to avoid the walk-off win for the Owls.

"It was a pretty cool experience and I made sure I got plate on the pitch.  I'm not going to lie, I definitely put it in God's hands, said a little prayer and tried to throw a strike," Napoleon said. 

In the 12th, Jeff Schalk started the inning by drawing a four-pitch walk against reliever Jordan Stephens (2-3).  Schalk moved all the way to third base on a pair of wild pitches and scored on Harry Clark's third hit of the day, tying a career-high for the Memphis, Tenn., native.

Todd Wilkinson entered for Clark and promptly stole second and third before coming home on a RBI ground out from DePew, with what proved to be the difference in the ball game.

"It was great to see us comeback like that so late in the year, especially since we haven't been playing the way we want to recently," Napoleon said.

The Owls pushed across a run in the bottom of the 12th, but Napoleon closed the door to give the Blazers their third win over a ranked opponent this season.  In fact, Napoleon has earned all three victories for UAB against top-25 teams.

Furthermore, the win over the fifth-ranked Owls was the highest ranked opponent the Blazers have defeated since knocking off then No. 4 Rice, 15-12 on May 16, 2009 at Young Memorial Field, nearly three years to the day.  The Blazers are also 4-1 in extra-inning affairs in 2012.

Prior to some late inning excitement, UAB starter Ryan Nance tied a career-long, pitching five innings, giving up only one earned run.  It marked the 43rd career appearance for Nance and his first-ever start in a Green and Gold uniform.

"I was excited to get the start and that coach Shoop and coach (Josh) Hopper gave me the opportunity," Nance said.  "I had a lot of family here and I was excited I gave our team a chance to win, because that's what it's all about."

Nance gave up only four hits, three runs (one earned) with two walks and one strikeout.

In total UAB recorded 11 hits along with a season-high five stolen bases.  Clark posted his third three-hit game of his career, going 3-for-5 with two RBI.  Prinzing and John Frost each added two hits in the victory.

Dylan Munger and Napoleon combined to pitch the final seven innings of the game, giving up only two runs off seven hits to keep the potent Rice lineup in check.

The Blazers are off until Thursday, when Southern Miss comes to Young Memorial Field for a three-game series.  First pitch is slated for 6:30 p.m. CT.